The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled monkeypox a “moderate” public health risk, after more than 250 confirmed cases were reported across the globe.
In a statement on Sunday, the health agency said monkeypox is a “moderate” public health risk because it has been reported in varying geographical locations for the first time. The illness had typically been found in central and western African regions.
“Currently, the overall public health risk at global level is assessed as moderate considering this is the first time that monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in widely disparate WHO geographical areas, and without known epidemiological links to non-endemic countries in West or Central Africa,” the health agency wrote.
A total of 257 laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported throughout the world since May 26, according to the WHO. Roughly 120 suspected cases were reported to the health agency. There have been zero reported deaths.
Ten cases have been confirmed in the U.S., with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky saying last week that some of the infections were connected to individuals who traveled to areas that are experiencing monkeypox outbreaks.
The WHO on Sunday said it expects more cases of the disease to pop up “as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries, as well as in countries known to be endemic who have not recently been reporting cases.”
“The sudden appearance and wide geographic scope of many sporadic cases indicates that widespread human-to-human transmission is already underway, and the virus may have been circulating unrecognized for several weeks or longer,” the health agency added.
Monkeypox is spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms include lesions, which spread the disease, fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue.
The WHO on Sunday said cases of monkeypox have primarily been reported among men who have sex with men.
While the top monkeypox expert at the WHO, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, has said she does not think the disease will turn into a pandemic, she recognized that much remains unknown about the illness, including how it is spreading across the globe and if stopping smallpox vaccinations several years ago is driving the transmission of monkeypox.